I was sitting on my favorite barstool in my favorite café, reading a book and nursing my diet-coke when a heavyset man of about twenty-five walked in wearing brown baggy shorts, sloppy sneakers and a surplus army jacket at least two sizes too big. He lumbered onto the barstool three down from me. His thick black rimmed glasses kept slipping down his nose but he didn’t seem to be bothered by the nuisance of it all. He spoke loudly and was missing several teeth. I had difficulty understanding him so I nodded and smiled.
His eyes were quickly drawn to the tray of homemade cookies sitting on the counter. He ordered a beer and struggled to decide which cookie to buy, the peanut butter or the Halloween ghost cookie. The ghost cookie with the white icing and M & M eyes was $2.50 and the peanut butter cookie was only $1.25. I could tell he wanted the ghost cookie, but settled on the peanut butter. He took out his wallet and paid with cash, carefully counting out the exact amount.
The affable stranger told me how he’d taken the bus into Seaside from a town I can’t remember the name of now, and then another bus into Cannon Beach. It stuck me that this was quite courageous for this young man and I wondered if I would be that daring if I were in his shoes.
While slowly sipping his beer and savoring his peanut butter cookie, he talked about a close friend who had just died, a friend who looked old enough to be his father. His eyes teared up as he explained how his friend and mentor helped him start his jam and jelly business. He went on to tell me how successful his business was as he reached into his pocket for one of this business cards, a card he had designed himself.
After a while I found myself drawn to this likable stranger. I was truly interested in what he was saying. He talked about how he would become rich and famous one day after writing his life story and how Hollywood would make it into a movie. He finished his beer and left, excited about walking around Cannon Beach.
I think about this young man periodically and how our brief encounter was an unexpected gift, a reminder of what real courage, confidence and joyful living are all about.